It was the kind of day that snails celebrate: not too hot, and steamy with humidity. As the very small snails gathered at the White, two were talking excitedly. A snail with a spiral shell was aflutter, repeatedly asking about the Legend. Another tiny snail was waving her antennae nonstop, proclaiming that she had heard that someone had been told that the Legend had been sighted. Sophie took the chatter in with a bemused smile, then said, “little snails, gather around – we have news about Gaston!”
A tiny snail with a beautifully shiny and pointy shell gasped and quickly (well, quickly for a very small snail) zoomed up from the corner of the White to join the growing crowd. Gaston? But he hadn’t been heard from since the fireflies had told a butterfly, who had carried word to a grasshopper, who shared what he had heard with a goldfinch. That goldfinch, luckily for the snails who lived near the White, was snail-friendly, and was particularly good friends with Remy – and he told Remy what he had heard.
As Sophie patiently explained what was known about Gaston’s whereabouts, the tiny snails kept interrupting with questions. When was he last seen? Who had seen him? Did he make it to the Red? Where was he now? Sophie had to ask, gently, that the baby snails hold their questions until she had a chance to share everything that she knew up to that point.
One of the larger young snails snickered and, said, audibly, to his friend, that he had heard that Gaston was dead. “He’s smashed out on the Gray – probably just his shell bleaching in the sun now.” A younger snail nearby heard this ominous pronouncement and began crying – Gaston had died! Several of the small snails began crying, imagining a lonely Gaston expiring somewhere away from home.
Irritation obvious in her voice, Sophie addressed the loud-mouthed young snail. “Gaston is not dead. A piece of his shell was found on the Gray, but it was just a small piece, and we’re confident that he was able to continue on his journey.” The small snails looked relieved, but the older ones’ expressions didn’t change. What did a single bit of shell mean? Was Gaston eaten, and only a remnant of shell was left? It was hardly proof of life, and the older snails knew it.
Remy, who had been quiet while Sophie addressed the crowd, chimed in: “we know in our hearts that Gaston is alive. We are all connected, and if he were gone, we would feel that hole. He is out there, somewhere, and he needs our good thoughts to be successful in his quest. Please join me in a moment of silence while we think good thoughts about our dear friend Gaston, and sending him positive energy and our love.”
The snails all lowered their heads and even the most active little snails were able to quiet themselves. The snails thought about what a brave explorer Gaston was, how they missed him and wished that he was home so that he could tell them all about his exploits. Sophie held her feelings inside, but both she and Remy felt dread because it had been such a long time since Gaston had sent word on his whereabouts. They just didn’t want to upset the young snails, or leave them with the impression that it was too dangerous to pursue their dreams, even though they may take a snail very far from home.
At the end of the moment of collective well-wishing, Sophie addressed the snails once again. “Gaston will come home to us one day. It may not be today or tomorrow or even next week, but he will come home. And when he does, he will have the most amazing stories to tell us of his adventures. Please keep him in your thoughts each day to help keep him safe.”
As the crowd dispersed, one little snail with a glossy spiral shell stayed behind with Sophie and Remy. When she spoke to Sophie and Remy, her words made her seem older than she appeared: “Gaston can never really die, even if something has happened to him during his travels…because he is an idea, an inspiration; he is the snail who tried. Gaston has showed us that a life spent in safety isn’t the kind of life that works for everyone. I, too, would like to follow his footstep [because snails really only have one big “foot”, right?] and see what’s out there, beyond the White.” And with that, the little snail philosopher left them.
Sophie and Remy smiled at each other, even though their hearts were heavy. Gaston, despite apparently being lost to them, had accomplished something few others had in their community: he had inspired others. And by doing so, he had become a legend. They knew that Gaston – wherever he was – would have been very proud, indeed. Sophie and Remy were grateful to have warm memories of him, and those memories would be enough to last a lifetime.
Still holding onto hope that Gaston is alive and well out there? You optimist! Stay tuned for the next installment of Gaston’s story.